Earlier this month, Oklahoma voted down a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis, with 63% of voters rejecting the measure. The decision is surprising given that the state legalized medical cannabis in 2018, and the industry has been booming, with retail medical cannabis sales generating $786.3 million in revenue last year. Additionally, the state has over 6,000 active cultivation permits, making it second only to California in the number of state-issued cultivation permits, as reported by the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA).
According to Yes on 820 campaign director Michelle Tilley, "There are almost 400,000 Oklahomans—that's almost ten percent of our population—using marijuana legally; there are many thousands more using marijuana acquired off the illicit market. A two-tiered system, where one group of Oklahomans is free to use this product, and the other is treated like criminals, does not make logical sense. Furthermore, the cost of lost revenue and lives disrupted by senseless arrests hurts all of us. We will continue to advocate for change, and we are confident that, sooner rather than later, change will come, as it has in 21 other states."
In order to buy cannabis in Oklahoma, you need to be a resident who is at least 21 years old and holds a valid medical marijuana license. However, the purchase of CBD is legal in the state only if it is derived from industrial hemp.
Visitors to Oklahoma should note that possession of up to 1 and 1/2 ounces (43 g) without a license is now considered a misdemeanour offence and is punishable by a $400 fine. This is particularly disappointing because Oklahoma cultivators are producing some of the finest cannabis, and legalization would have created tremendous opportunities for cannabis tourism.
March 16 Edit I wanted to add some information I recently found through The Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit dedicated to Cannabis Reform in the United States. "On March 7, SQ 820—Oklahoma’s cannabis legalization ballot initiative—failed to pass. It bears repeating that more than 4,500 people are arrested for cannabis in Oklahoma yearly, and the state has at least 60,000 cannabis records that should be cleared.
That said, while the passage of SQ 820 would’ve been a big step forward for the cannabis reform movement, it still wouldn’t have done enough to repair all of the harms of prohibition.
Learn more about the importance of criminal justice reform in legalization efforts by checking out our recent Oklahoma-focused op-ed in Marijuana Moment."